Help Me! How to Get the Smell out of an Old Steamer Trunk?

The blog post I get contacted about the most is the one where I wrote about beginning to restore my Granna’s old steamer trunk. And I can see why – there’s just not a lot of information out there. In fact, when you Google “how to restore a steamer trunk” my little blog comes in in the top 5 results (which I think is hilarious). I started this project in 2014 and – to be honest – have made very little progress with it since I wrote my first post. Why? Well, I have had a lot of trouble getting all the musty odor out and I ended up tucking it away in the basement for another day year. Getting the smell out is a priority, because if I can’t resolve that there’s no point in trying to refinish the rest of it.


Here is what I have attempted to far to de-mustify my trunk:

So far I have scraped the insides – I removed the wallpaper lining and the paper backing.

  1. First I cleaned the interior with white vinegar.
  2. Then I cleaned the interior with bleach.
  3. Next I covered the bottom of the trunk in baking soda and let it sit for a few days before vacuuming it up.
  4. Meanwhile, I let the trunk sit in full afternoon sun for many, many hours.
  5. Then I purchased charcoal-activated kitty litter and spread it out on the bottom of the trunk. Let it sit for a few days and then used the shop-vac to clean it up.
  6. Then I really went to town and scraped the inside very well. I read the wallpaper glue could be the source of the odor so I sprayed the insides with water and used a scraper to take off as much as possible.
  7. Then I painted the inside with Zinsser mold killing paint – 4 coats of paint. I was planning on re-lining the inside with duckcloth, so painting the inside didn’t matter to me.


But, every time the top gets closed the musty smell reappears. Is it better? Yes. But, as it currently stands I would never be able to store anything inside of this trunk. I even met one of my favorite furniture bloggers at a meet-and-greet, Marian of Miss Mustard Seed, and asked her what to do (she recommends dawn soap and elbow grease – I think we were past that point).

I let it air out one last time on our porch for about a month, and brought it back inside and closed it for a week. Upon re-opening, there is still an odor. Suffice it to say that I’m quite disappointed, as I’d hate to let this piece go out of sentimental reasoning. But, I can’t keep it forever if it’s a dead end. So this is my final call for help before I call it quits on this project.

Is there anyone out there who can help me? Any tips for removing the odor from old wooden trunks or furniture?











Farewell Autumn














fall13 fall14


I know, I know. Technically Autumn ends on December 20, but after Thanksgiving my mind has completely moved on to all things Christmas. Fall is my favorite season. Between my birthday, my daughter’s birthday, Halloween, the return of warm drinks, hot pie, and cold nights, my love for all things cozy rejoices. When you add in the glorious beauty of a New England autumn it’s almost too much to take. The foliage this year was just spectacular, and now that most of the leaves have fallen (and I keep hearing whispers of snow) it is almost time to move on. But not before we celebrate Thanksgiving with family this week.

I’ve been reflecting on a favorite quote this last week as I’ve been getting ready for Thanksgiving:


There is so much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!



The Wild Rumpus at Tower Hill Botanical Garden

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Wild Rumpus

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Wild Rumpus

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Wild Rumpus

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Wild Rumpus

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Wild Rumpus

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Wild Rumpus

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Wild Rumpus

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Wild Rumpus

A few weeks ago I met a friend at Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, MA to see the Wild Rumpus Stickwork exhibit. It was my first time at Tower Hill. What a beautiful place!

Wild Rumpus is inspired by the famous children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. The Stickwork exhibit feels like the magical towers sprouted right from the ground. I love art exhibits you can touch and experience – which makes this a great exhibit for children. In addition to the Wild Rumpus “castle” you can walk along a trail in the woods that contains signs that feature pages from the Where the Wild Things Are book.

Tower Hill has shared a time-lapsed video of creating the Wild Rumpus – you can see it here.

Admission to Tower Hill is $12 per person. I reserved my local library pass and was able to get in for $6. Boylston residents get in free on Thursdays. Parking is free.


A Boston Halloween


Happy Halloween friends!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. Since my birthday is right before Halloween I grew up having costume birthday parties filled with pumpkin cakes and other seasonal treats. Now that my own baby is also a Halloween baby, I expect that tradition will only continue. We’ve added our own traditions – including pumpkin beer and cider tasting with friends, and making quadruple-size batches of butternut squash soup, and enjoying homemade pumpkin spice lattes.

This past weekend my husband and I celebrated my birthday downtown for the weekend sans baby – a first for us! I never spend much time in Beacon Hill and wanted to see it all decked out for the holiday. It didn’t disappoint! While the leaves out by us changed a few weeks ago, they are only just starting to turn in the city.



We had to laugh. These pumpkins were $20 each. I got all of ours in upstate NY for $2 each! Sorry city-dwellers!


Highly recommend meandering through Beacon Hill this time of year. They really go all-out with the decor!











The downfall of Instagram… we came upon Acorn Street (one of Boston’s “most picturesque” streets and it was full of girls and fashion bloggers taking their picture. I even circled back a second time, but still packed!

I spent the weekend celebrating with all kinds of treats from Tatte Bakery, the Thinking Cup, and Blackbird Doughnuts (highly recommend the savory everything bagel donut, or the plain chocolate!), and dinner at Ruth’s Chris. There better be some exercise in my future!



We have been enjoying the season at home too. Last night we carved our pumpkins, and made roasted pumpkin seeds (Cinnamon Sugar – this recipe) for the first time. Our trick-or-treatless Halloweens are numbered, so tonight we will enjoy a low-key night watching The Addams Family and getting Chipotle Boo-Ritos (a tradition!).





We celebrated our baby’s first birthday with cupcakes with our small group from church and trip to the playground.


Happy Halloween!

How are you spending this Halloween? Dressing up? We will head out soon as Mama and Baby Bumblebees to get our Chipotle Boo-ritos!




Our Happy, Colorful, DIY, Gender-Neutral Nursery

I know I said I would be posting the 5-years-later-then-and-now post but I wanted to share my favorite room first – the nursery!





We waited to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, so although it needed to be neutral I still wanted the baby’s room to be fun and colorful. (Although, I added the rainbow circle bunting and the colorful teething guard after we brought home our little girl.)

This room is a happy blend of old and new things.

The crib is the Jenny Lind crib from Babies R Us, the blue rug is from Lowe’s (and very cushy and soft – perfect for babies playing on the floor), and the white shelf with the yellow bins is from the Target Threshold line. The book ledges are from IKEA.


Sorry for the grainy distorted picture! This is the smallest room in our house and between the smallness and the lighting it’s a tough room to photograph. iPhone panorama is the best way to capture it!

Many parents told us to get the Dutailier glider, and it’s very comfortable (I spend quite a bit of time there!). We were actually given the frame from friends but the cushions had been lost somewhere along the way. We purchased replacement cushions directly from Dutailier. Although the lead-time took forever because we hit them during their company “summer break” (about 10 weeks!), it was totally worth it! Dutailier gliders brand new are about $500, and we spent about $300 on cushions for what felt like a brand new chair. Keep your eyes out on Craigslist for a deal!


Between the curtains and the rug there was a lot of pattern going on in this room so I wanted to keep artwork to a minimum.

The dresser and nightstand were from my husband’s childhood bedroom, and the white bench was from my childhood bedroom. The green lamp is old from Target, and the Philadelphia ZOO print is an old WPA reprint I bought ages ago from Zazzle.



I DIYed the rainbow garland, the stars mobile, the tray, the crib skirt, and the curtains. The curtains… I will spare you the details, but I thought making them while I was 38 weeks pregnant was a good idea. I still have physical scars that say otherwise!


Here’s a tip – I couldn’t find a crib skirt that I liked so I decided to just clip on these old curtains from The Christmas Tree Shoppe  using mini binder clips. No sewing needed! I ended up actually really liking them so they stayed!


This room still needs a little work – we removed the old metal radiator cover and need to build a pretty, newer one. And the white bench really needs a fresh coat of paint and possibly a cushion. Someday I may paint the dresser and nightstand, as I’m not wild about the color of the stain – but for now it works.


The curtains are lined with blackout fabric and we ended up also installing black out shades behind the bamboo shades. So it gets nice and dark in there. I know short curtains are totally “not cool” but with all the radiators in this house we don’t have many options!



We don’t have a traditional changing table either. Instead we registered for the Keekaroo changing pad and IT’S THE BEST! Definitely one of our favorite baby gear items. While I had it on top of the dresser for a few months, now we just keep it tucked in the corner and pull it out as needed. I keep all our diaper supplies in one of the dresser drawers and it’s super easy. So no, you don’t HAVE to stare at a pile of diapers, wipes, and lotions for a few years.

So what did it look like before?

To share a bit of the history from this room – it was a little rough from the get-go. The condition of the walls in this room were horrible. I am guessing this room was originally wallpapered, and someone had trouble removing it and severely damaged the plaster while doing so.

After using enough spackle to build a small island and sanding everything down we painted the room velveeta cheese orange (a $5 “oops” section can gone horribly wrong), then a lemon yellow (which was nice in the sunlight, but sickly in low light).

The room originally had a sliding door closet, which we demolished and added that square footage to our upstairs bathroom renovation. While we did that we also moved the entire closet-wall into the room by a little over 12 inches. Yep, we were robbing Peter to pay Paul. This room got a tiny bit smaller so the bathroom would have enough space for our double vanity. To get a closet back into the room we turned around a cedar closet that we had in the upstairs hallway and moved the door into the nursery, so now we have a decently deep closet in that room.

Are you confused yet? 🙂

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Then we painted the room a nice blue-gray color – Woodlawn Sterling Blue by Valspar – and had the floors refinished (as well as all the floors upstairs – not DIY! In fact, because I was pregnant at the time we left the house and lived with friends for the week until the fumes were gone so it was safe for me to return home.). When it was time for this room to turn from guest room to nursery it was pretty straightforward! Besides installing new curtain rods and additional blackout shades behind the bamboo shades, the baby-ready transformation was mostly decorative.


and then… VOILA!!